Sometimes finding a human chess opponent is hard, so it might be time to play chess against the computer. Where do you find a computer opponent? Almost anywhere, and if you think that it is impossible to beat a computer, you will be surprised to find that your actual skill level does get better.
Play Chess against the Computer: Programs
ChessMaster has been around for over 20 years and has been programmed for nearly every type of gaming console and PC operating system. It is currently the best-selling chess program around and for good reason: it is strong, patient, and willing to teach you every aspect of the game.One of the alluring features is the game's "personalities" that allow to you switch up skill levels based on styles of play and/or famous chess players in history like Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov. You can also choose to play against kids with low skill levels as well as old-timers who play attacking games. If you are looking to play chess against the computer and want a good place to start, ChessMaster is a great program to begin with.
Fritz was developed in the early 1990's and remains a strong program to this day, beating world champions and winning many computer tournaments. Fritz is an excellent computer program for learning strategies and positional strength because it is based on the millions of games from Chessbase. If you are just learning chess, it is recommended that you purchase Chesster, which is a set of tutorials used in conjunction with Fritz.
For a free program that has been included on all versions of Windows Vista, try Chess Titans. You can download this free chess program, but you must have Vista because it utilizes Windows Aero for a glossy look. It's a basic chess program that can improve your skills whether you are looking for a quick game or a tournament level game.
Stand Alone Computer Boards
If you don't have a computer, or you don't want to sit at your desk staring at a monitor for a length of time, you can get stand-alone chess computers. You can place them on your coffee table, the floor, or even in your hand if you get the handheld ones.
Handheld Chess Computers
Handheld chess computers are just as small as you think. They are designed to be held in your hand like a PDA or cell phone. Most are touch screen (with the use of a stylus), but you can get some that have actual tiny chess pieces to move around the board. Saitek is a very popular brand when it comes to chess computers, and they make the handheld ones very strong, offering many levels of play and exhaustive opening repertoires. Check out some handhelds at The Chess Baron.
Desktop Chess Computers
Want to move up in difficulty? Desktop chess computer let you play as if you were sitting across from a human opponent. These are a little large and feature full chessboards and actual chess pieces. There is an on-board computer that calculates a move and displays where the computer wants to go. You do have to move the pieces yourself, unless you want to fork out some dough and purchase a desktop computer that actually moves the pieces itself.
Desktop computers offer a seemingly unlimited difficulty, the ability to solve problems you set up, opening variations on the fly, and other kinds of analysis. On some of the higher end machines, you can set up a tournament (including the computer) and print out notation sheets and even get beaten at your own game through the computers' capacity to "learn" how you play.
To see a good selection, check out The Chess Baron.
In the end, when you play chess against the computer, the worst that can happen is you learn something. Whether it's a new opening set, or a middlegame strategy, or a quick way to checkmate in the endgame, losing can also be winning.